About etiquetteer.com

Etiquetteer is known socially as Robert B. Dimmick. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Dimmick emigrated North for education, finally settling in that Athens of America, Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr. Dimmick spent his childhood attending weddings, reading Emily Post’s Etiquette, and being teased and taunted by other children for minding his mother, taking everything the preacher said seriously, and generally being a Good Boy. This ultimately led to an aversion to organized sports, television, and popular culture in general, and definite opinions about everything from restaurant dining to wedding dresses to historic preservation. Mr. Dimmick believes in the sartorial legacy of President Harry S Truman, getting out of the way of oncoming traffic quickly, and the tasteful expression of free speech. He is, all too often, willing to express an opinion on just about anything.

By day, Mr. Dimmick plans class reunions for one of those great big universities. By night he enjoys club openings, dinner parties, memoirs of the Fabulous, yoga, the music of the American songbook, and spirited conversation with friends. He invites you to behave with Perfect Propriety whether you want to or not.


A Preposterous Pair of Pet Peeves, and Wedding Guests Who Don’t R.s.v.p., Vol. 14, Issue 21

May 20th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

At long last we enter the¬†final round of Etiquetteer’s Spring Madness of Pet Peeves: the Preposterous Pair! Please vote today – it won’t take more than a moment to choose – or will it?

At this point Etiquetteer has become so excited about untreeing the white bucks and shaking out the seersucker that the dates of the voting have been Shockingly Neglected – and as the Season of Ravenous June Bridezillas comes closer and closer, Etiquetteer wants to say a few words about the Champion Pet Peeve of the Weddings division, Guests Who Don’t R.s.v.p.*

In general, we as a society have forgotten how to show respect by declaring in advance what our plans are, often relapsing into the Dreaded Phrase, “I’ll have to see how I feel.” Now that’s one thing if the invitation is for something simple like drinks on the back porch. It’s still not Perfectly Proper, but not nearly as maddening as it is for a Life Event like a wedding. How can one have ambivalence about celebrating the wedding of a friend or relative?

Actually, there are a few reasons for that:

  • Distant Locations: As air travel makes our global society more global, attending a wedding has become less driving across town and more driving across state lines, and more often than that flying across the country or the pond. It’s much more a time commitment than the time of the ceremony and reception, and it can feel like a lot to ask. Attending an out-of-town wedding is not trivial.
  • Expense: The Wedding-Industrial Complex puts a lot of pressure on Happy Couples to spend a lot on their Happy Day, which also puts pressure on their Many Guests to do likewise in terms of wedding gifts, whether on a gift registry, a honeymoon registry, at a shower, or in plain old hard cash. See also “Distant Locations” above. Travel isn’t always a bargain.
  • Not Really Wanting to Go Anyway: You may not like weddings. You may not particularly like the Happy Couple and/or their parents**. You may be questioning why you got invited in the first place.
  • Timing: The wedding may be scheduled for an inconvenient time of year on your calendar. Certainly Etiquetteer would like Happy Couples to reconsider holding their weddings on three-day weekends. Etiquetteer once spent four or five consecutive years going to weddings on Memorial Day, and not to the beach. Yes, having a wedding on a three-day weekend does provide an extra day off for travel, but do people really want to spend a three-day weekend attending a wedding?
  • Not Wanting to Say No: Declining an invitation to a wedding may sometimes feel (to the invited guest) like sending a message of disapproval to the Happy Couple – and the Deity of Your Choice Above knows that some bridezillas will receive the news that way, which doesn’t help. Not saying anything at all, however, doesn’t help either.

Etiquetteer can’t consider any of these reasons a valid excuse for just not responding to the invitation at all. Taking the time to send a Cordial but Decisive Decline will not take that long, and provides essential information to the Happy Couple about just how many people their caterer has to feed. Even when declining to attend, a response shows respect and consideration.

What’s even worse than not responding and not attending, in Etiquetteer’s book, is not responding and attending. A guest can do no wrong, of course, but still . . . what were you thinking? And what’s probably even worse than that is not showing up having responded that you’d be there. Unless a hospital or a cemetery is involved, you must attend. Yes, yes, yes . . . there are legitimate excuses, and Etiquetteer has heard them all so much that they sound like Bunburying. But “Oh, was that yesterday?” and “We felt like doing something else instead” are not Perfectly Proper excuses.

One way to reduce the risk of this Pet Peeve is to reduce the number of guests invited in the first place, which Etiquetteer would do on a geographic basis first. The further removed one’s home address from the wedding location, the more likely to receive an announcement than an invitation. Just a suggestion.


*Really, Etiquetteer is still just a mite disappointed that “Happy Couples who don’t send thank-you notes” didn’t take the honors in the Weddings division, but will accept that defeat with Perfect Propriety – and continued admonitions to Send Those Lovely Notes.

**This is too bad if you’re a blood relation at the first cousin level or closer.

Returning to the Spring Madness of Pet Peeves, Vol. 14, Issue 20

May 11th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

There’s no doubt about it, alas: Etiquetteer has been asleep at the wheel of his Hispano-Suiza for the last two weeks and was just about to drive off the most Perfectly Proper cliff you can imagine. Fate, however, had other plans, and steered Etiquetteer into a convenient field of poppies, from which Etiquetteer is now somewhat sleepily recovering thanks to the Good Witch of the North.

So, where were we? Aha, just about to enter the Final Four Round of Etiquetteer’s Spring Madness of Pet Peeves! And how exciting it is to find out what the top Pet Peeve is in each division:

WEDDINGS: Guests who don’t R.s.v.p.

DRIVING AND TRAFFIC: Cell phone use while operating a vehicle.

TABLE MANNERS/DINING OUT: Ill-mannered children and complacent parents.

GENERAL PEEVES: Loud public cellphone conversations.

Vote now and help determine what the final Devilish Duo of Pet Peeves will be!

Etiquetteer is interested to learn your pet peeves, and was so pleased to receive this peeve from a reader, who sent it to queries@etiquetteer.com:

You ask for my pet peeve not on the list, and it’s overt judginess.¬† This obviously doesn’t mean you!¬† Or etiquette!¬† But the trend now to believe that everything that you believe is the only right thing and anyone who isn’t voting/raising their children/protecting the environment/whatever in exactly the way that you are, needs to be set straight.¬† For instance, you have on the list, “parking illegally in handicapped spaces,” which I actually voted for, but a bigger pet peeve would be feeling that you get to decide exactly who is handicapped enough to park in the space and leaving a note on the windshield of someone without a visible handicap saying that they should leave these spaces for real handicapped people.¬† People who don’t mind their own business and feel that they should be able to tell everyone exactly how to live their lives, that is my pet peeve. Which is of course the whole marriage equality issue.¬† Do you want to get married to a person of your own gender?¬† No?¬† Then the normal thing to do would be to say, “Well, it doesn’t affect me in any way, so those people can do what they like,” not, “Well, it doesn’t affect me in any way, so I will try to stop it with all of my power because EVERYONE MUST LIVE AND THINK EXACTLY AS I DO!”

This is my pet peeve.¬† I think it’s too long for a survey question, though!

And really, Etiquetteer need not try to say it better than that.


Condolences and National Card and Letter Writing Month, Vol. 14, Issue 19

April 25th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

Is the term, “I’m sorry” an appropriate response upon hearing of a death in the family of a friend? I see so much of that on Facebook, while I had thought that extending sympathy or condolences would be a more proper response.

Dear Condoling:

Your query shows a discerning attitude about how we use language, which Etiquetteer can only admire and wish more people would adopt. This led Etiquetteer to examine more closely the definition of “sorry.” For a moment Etiquetteer thought the word might imply personal responsibility for what one was sorry for. As it turns out, one definition is “”Feeling regret, compunction, sympathy . . . ” and another is “suggestive of grief or suffering,” so Etiquetteer can say that “I’m sorry” is an appropriate response to the news of a death. I’m sorry.

Now, is it the most appropriate response? Like you, Etiquetteer would rather see “My condolences” or “My sympathies” used instead, because those words are more specific to the occasion. “I’m sorry” is used every time an apology is made. One cannot say “My condolences for forgetting to attend your birthday dinner,” for instance. And online, “I’m sorry” looks rather like a throwaway comment, which (Etiquetteer must hasten to add before the brickbats fly) is surely not the intent of those commenting.

Etiquetteer remains ambivalent about online condolences, whether on social media or through the online guest books of funeral homes. This is not to say that such things aren’t, or can’t be, Proper; this only reflects Etiquetteer’s ambivalence. Condolences serve two purposes: to express sympathy to the bereaved by sharing positive thoughts and memories of the deceased; and, through the act of thoughtful writing, to assist oneself through the grieving process. What is attractive about expressing sympathy online is its immediacy, and the swift expression of condolences remains a very important part of expressing them. But the pitfalls of Immediate Online Expression are thoughtlessness and indiscretion on one side, and the consciousness of writing for a larger audience than the bereaved on the other. This last can sometimes lead to – how to say it? – an Escalation of Histrionics that becomes less about the impact of the deceased and more about the individual grief of each commenter. Just as it is improper to steal the spotlight from the bride at a wedding, so is it improper to steal the spotlight from the deceased. Often that form of writing is best left to one’s personal, offline journal.


Etiquetteer learned only recently that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. Considering the query above, it’s essential to note that online comments on a message board do not replace the need for a handwritten condolence note. Nor will Etiquetteer accept the complaint that this is stuffy and old-fashioned. If anything, the understandable rush to adopt online communications has made handwritten letters and notes that much more significant and special to the recipients! The Lovely Note of Thanks (especially for wedding gifts), the Get Well Card, and even the Letter for No Reason give us opportunities for creativity and thoughtfulness unavailable online, because the audience is the Recipient Alone. And the thrill of seeing an envelope in one’s mailbox that isn’t a bill or junk mail remains fresh.

Unfortunately Etiquetteer has mailed exactly two handwritten pieces of correspondence this month. Let’s all do better than that in the remaining week of National Card and Letter Writing Month, and in the months beyond!


Today is the last official day to vote in Etiquetteer’s Spring Madness of Pet Peeves, and my goodness, what is to come afterward . . . This round determines the champion pet peeve in each division. NEXT week we’ll see the divisions compete against each other: Weddings vs. Driving and Traffic, and Dining Out/Table Manners vs. General Peeves! So far these look like difficult choices. Please vote today!

Round II Results, Etiquetteer’s Spring Madness of Pet Peeves, Vol. 14, Issue 17

April 21st, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Last week’s voting in Etiquetteer’s Spring Madness of Pet Peeves have led to some exciting pairings for next week’s competition, which will determine the Champion Pet Peeve in each of the divisions! Etiquetteer would like to thank everyone to voted, and encourage you all to cast your votes again this week.


First off, and without surprise, “Guests who don’t R.s.v.p.” handily overtook “Lack of information about time, directions, etc.” at 57% to 43%. As a result, this week “Guests who don’t R.s.v.p.” will have to compete with “Couples who don’t send thank-you notes,” which squeaked ahead of “Weddings as fund-raisers for the honeymoon” 52% to 48%. In some ways, Etiquetteer thinks this might be the bloodiest of competitions; each pet peeve involves the lack of a response. But which leaves Etiquetteer readers feeling more disrespected?


It’s interesting to observe that any pet peeve not relating to driving has not advanced in this category. “Drivers who ignore red lights” trounced “Drivers blocking bike lanes” 82% to 18%. “Cell phone use while operating a vehicle” had a less easy time getting ahead of “Illegally parking in handicapped spaces, ” 65% to 35%. And a part of Etiquetteer is disappointed in that, because those who require handicapped parking already have a lot to deal with, and deserve better than to be inconvenienced. But choosing between “Drivers who ignore red lights” and “Cell phone use while operating a vehicle” will surely be a tough call for many.


Here, behaviors that have been pet peeves for centuries won out. The comparatively recent “Texting at the table,” to Etiquetteer’s surprise, didn’t stand a chance against “Chewing with mouth open,” 59% to 41%. It just proves that Etiquetteer really does know only the Very Best People, since it’s been a very long time since anyone’s been witnessed chewing with his or her mouth open. And texting at the table is such a deliberate ignoring of one’s physical companions! Ah well, “Chewing with mouth open” must now fight a steamroller of a pet peeve “Ill-mannered children with complacent parents,” which topped “Cheap tippers” 75% to 25%! “Ill-mannered children with complacent parents” has consistently performed well in Spring Madness, and may well defeat all the competition.


In our last category, the victors came out as Etiquetteer predicted. “Confusing customer service menus” was no match for “Door-to-door solicitors of any kind,” going down 42% to 58%. Then “Loud public cellphone conversations” easily bested “Oversufficient cologne” 64% to 36%. This week’s pairing pits one century against the other, in a way, as the door-to-door thing was so 20th century, and the cellphone thing is, well, so omnipresent.

So keep voting! It will take half as much time every week. And of course if you discover something you think is missing, you may always share it with Etiquetteer at queries@etiquetteer.com.


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